Saturday, August 15, 2020

A History of Solitude (David Vincent)

Author David Vincent tackles centuries of history of solitude with the aptly titled A History of Solitude. The book takes the reader on a journey through the idea of spending time alone - how it was seen as a rare treat given the circumstance of many people in cramped places combined with working long hours in various capacities. Today, given smaller family units and many others living together, the definition of solitude has evolved...and in some instances, taken on an alert status. An example would be the research and news about “loneliness epidemics," which prompted the United Kingdom to establish a Minister of Loneliness.

Vincent’s journey through the story of solitude weaves between religion and secularism, hobbies and abbots, and how increased education, wealth, and technology have helped adapt and evolve the pursuit of “me time." The author also looks briefly into the future and how technology may make the pursuit of authentic solitude harder to accomplish.

I thought the book had a slow start, but as I continued to read, I found the evolution of activities and how solitude has changed more and more fascinating. While the book is written with a highly British-oriented perspective, its common story in sharing how solitude has evolved thanks to technology, affluence, and societal norms is one that has common themes across much of Western culture. If you are one that appreciates reading as part of your solitude, you might appreciate this book.